Wednesday, December 30, 2009

David Charlesworth

It is with regret that 'A swift one' has learned that David Charlesworth, 'Charlie' to his friends, died earlier today after a short illness. Charlie was well known in local pub circles, was a previous chairman of Huddersfield CAMRA and a tireless worker for Huddersfield Beer Festival. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his friends and family at this sad time. As yet, funeral arrangements are not finalised.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Review of 2009

I decided, in the traditions of all the best publications, that it would be appropriate to end the year with my list of favourites from the past 12 months, with a look at the best of the last year.

Favourite Huddersfield town pub

Those who read the blog regularly will know of my affection for the Star. A great pub, no juke box, no gaming machine, just the craic from the customers, and some great beers to choose from. That along with the friendly and informed staff and the 3 yearly beer festivals make it an outstanding place to drink.
The Sportsman is also a credit to the Town, newly opened and again serving well kept beer in good surroundings, and ,well made home cooked food,put it high on the list of places that one must visit.

Favourite Huddersfield rural pub

The Commercial at Slaithwaite is another pub new in 2009 which has really taken off and with 8 beers on the bar, and has cemented its place on the Rail Ale trail. It is a real credit to Johnny and the team, and well worth a trip up the valley to visit.

Favourite out of town pub

Had this been written 6 months ago I would have said the New Oxford in Salford, but my recent visits have been slightly disappointing, so this accolade goes to the Harlequin in Sheffield. Again with around 10 beers on the bar, piped music, and several beer festivals throughout the year I think it deserves the prize - and for the record, one of the few things that Dave Unpronounceable and me agree on !!!

Favourite Huddersfield club

The Monkey Club at Armitage Bridge, with its beer festival and knowledgeable beer ordering by Festa continues to prosper.

Best Beer of The Year

This is where the problems start. The pubs almost chose themselves, the beer doesn't, and its hard work trying to remember what a beer tasted like back in January. Personal taste always comes into this, and some great beers are not to my liking so unfortunately don't get a look in.
The Marble '1425' was very good with its New Zealand hop flavours, so good that the brewery kept it as a regular and renamed it 'Dobber'. Pictish made many good beers but their single hopped 'Saaz' and their 'Mount Rainier' were exceptional. Salopian beers always came up with the goods throughout the year, and it was hard to choose the best one, but maybe 'Mafia'. Yorkshire Dales likewise always made plenty of good beers. On the dark beer front, Mallinsons 'Oatmeal Stout' was excellent along with Windsor Castle 'Mud City Stout'. There was even the appearance of Red Shield.
As you can see, there are so many to choose from that it is impossible to make an objective judgement - what one person likes, another dislikes, and vice versa, but here are my personal favourites, but don't go looking for them as many are one-off beers.

5. Mallinsons 'A Swift One'
4. Brew Company ' Hop Ripper Ipa'
3. Steel City 'Hop Manifesto'
2. Mallinsons 'Star 5000k'
1. Yorkshire Dales ' Hit For 6'

Best Brewery

In 18 months Mallinsons have created a reputation second to none, and do they desrve it!! Every beer eagerly anticipated and seldom failing, they have even started bottling so you can now enjoy their beer at home.

Favourite Hop

Anything from New Zealand, but Nelson Sauvin gets the vote. Closely followed by anything from the Mount Hood area of America.

Best Blog

Don't be silly !!!

There we are, my view of 2009. A good year for the beer world, despite the continuing gloom spread about by the brew companies closing their share of pubs, and the closure of some breweries. Just hope that 2010 continues to provide good quality beer and interesting new pubs , if it does, things can only get better. Have no fear, us intrepid bloggers on 'A Swift One' will be there to bring the news of it to you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas To All Our Readers

Just a big thank you to everyone who reads the blog, and those who have contributed in the past year, no matter how small, any feedback is much appreciated. From the editorial team, we wish you all a happy Christmas and a beery New Year.

Should there be anything you feel we should cover, any pubs we should visit, or any thing you would like done differently on the blog we will be pleased to hear from you. Just add your comments in the comment area. We just hope to keep producing an informative, interesting, amusing and occasionally controversial update on the beer scene in Huddersfield and its surroundings.

Will, Tim, Alison, Iain and David

Reopening Time?

Information has arrived from our Hull correspondent (not sure how he gets to know before the locals!) that The Sair, has started brewing again. It is unconfirmed but it is believed that there were four of their own beers on the bar at the weekend, including Old Eli, and Gold Medal. Will have to wait till the snow thaws before trekking out to confirm the truth of this, but sounds promising news.

Rumour has also reached us of the reopening of the Shoulder of Mutton at Lockwood. Again with real ale, but if my information is right these are beers from the larger breweries and I have no idea of its opening hours.

A bit more positive is news of the Marsh House on Westbourne Rd at Marsh in Huddersfield which has been closed for some time, but according to the advert in 'Inn Speak' has reopened. It serves five hand-pulled real ales and a real cider, opening at 4pm daily and all day at weekends.

Rumour again says that the old West Riding pub in the town, on the corner of Buxton Way and Albion St, is being refurbished, (judging by the work going on that is certainly the case) but the good news is that when it reopens in the New Year it will also provide several real ales on the bar. Another one to watch out for.

As I said, none of this has been definitely confirmed, but should it be true then there are even more reasons for a trip to Huddersfield.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Monday Club Christmas Crawl

It has been the tradition for several years for the members of the 'Huddersfield Monday Club' to have a Xmas do. Well more of a chance to get round a few more pubs than usual.

This year we decided to start in The Sportsman so we could line our stomachs before the real drinking began. As it was, the weather was not kind to us, with most of outer Huddersfield under a few inches of snow and central Huddersfield full of slippery slush, but nevertheless we managed a turn out of eight hardy souls.

Being a ticker, and unable to walk past a pub without calling in, I started at The Cherry Tree. It had some interesting beers on the bar from unusual breweries, so I was well chuffed to get a couple of Big Lamp beers, (Embers & Keelman Brown) but less happy when I realised they were 5.5% and 5.7% respectively. I followed these with a more sensible, but cloudy and tasteless half of Old Bear 'Jingle Bears'@ 4.0%.

I then made my way, very carefully as it was treacherous underfoot, to the Sportsman. There on the bar I was treated to one of my favourite beers, Elland 'El Divino', a lovely light hoppy beer. Unfortunately, in my enthusiasm to drink this, I managed to miss a new Riverhead beer, 'Brewsters Blonde' which ran off before I got to it. I managed to console myself with another pint of Elland and a steak pie before we made off to our next port of call. By the time we left the pub our little group had increased to its maximum, with the arrival of those who were struggling on buses with the traffic into town, plus those who accidentally started in the wrong pub!

The 'Kings Head' provided the mecca that light hoppy beer drinkers love, (thats the beer, not the drinker!) and the groups choice seemed unanimously to be Dark Star 'Hophead' which was in tip top form, and I followed this with Brown Cow 'One Over the 8' which again was excellent.

Anyway, time and beer waits for no man, so it was onwards and upwards to the Grove. Time constraints meaning the Head Of Steam was bypassed. In the Grove our choices were wide and varied from White 'Brighton Rocks', Thornbridge 'Jaipur' and Marble 'Dobber' to Brewdog 'Hardcore IPA'. All were different, and all in good fettle. There the party began to split up, and go their own ways. Incidentally in The Grove I managed a sight, but not a drink, of Brewdog's 'Tactical Nuclear Penguin' in a bottle. At around 30%, not a beer to be taken lightly. The best before date of 2019 seems to suggest an investment rather than a drinking beer.

All in all, a good day with plenty of good beer, plenty of bizarre conversations, and a promise to do it all again in 2010. See you there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hoppy Christmas

Those lucky enough to be present in the Star in Lockwood on Saturday were treated to a veritable feast of hoppy beers, with several of the hoppiest around from some of the best breweries.

Pictish 'Sterling', a single hopped beer was there, rubbing shoulders with a couple of offerings from Salopian; the massively hoppy 'Santa's Big Sack' and the less aggressive, although no less flavoursome 'Firkin Freezing' (just suited the weather). These were later followed by Marble 'Brew 14'.

In addition to the beers we were visited by Kev Yelland from the Alehouse brewery, all clean shaven after his charity hair cut and singing the praises of the beers on the bar - deciding that the Marble was the best beer of the year! Praise indeed from a man who makes some of the hoppiest beers around. Even the news of Town's demise at Norwich did not dampen the spirits of the assembled hop monsters who continued to sample and resample the offerings.

Having checked the weather for today and seen snow forecast, I suppose I will just have to return and do it all again. Hard work I know, but someone has to do it!!!

(Note to fellow editors - think you picked the wrong day to go to East Anglia, a 3-0 defeat and missing some of the best beer of the year - glad I stayed at home )

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ticking Reaches the Masses - sort of

Last Tuesday saw the premiere of a film called 'Beertickers - beyond the ale'. Written and directed by Phil Parkin it features several 'beer tickers' as they explain and enjoy their hobby, visiting pubs and festivals up and down the country.

Phil's objective was to tick 500 beers through the making of the film and we see him going through his apprenticeship under the watchful eye of Sheffield's Brian Moore, the nations number one ticker.

For those who know Sheffield, there are plenty of recognisable pubs in the film plus interviews with many of their famous faces. Also featured in the film are local scoopers Dave Unpronouceable and Gazza, with Mick The Tick from Birmingham making up a fearsome foursome of beer enthusiasts.

The film attempts and succeeds, in trying to show what motivates tickers to do what they do, and why they travel several hundred miles to do it. There is a section on Phil actually brewing a beer under the watchful eye of Kelly Ryan at Thornbridge, and for the more musically minded, a piece on Mick playing in his skiffle band at his local pub in Halesowen.

The film has been rushed out on dvd, and I was lucky to secure a copy (actually I paid 10 quid for it at the Star, where incidentally Brian Moore was drinking at the time). In my opinion, it is well worth £10 of any tickers money to watch all the famous faces at work and play, and see if you can spot the fringe players and the pubs featured. Sort of ticking tickers I suppose. You even get chance to see one of Dave's minor rants about his and Gazza's boycotting of the 'Fat Cat'.

There you have it, a perfect Xmas present for the ticker that will keep him (or her)happy for just over an hour after the turkey. know there are a few for sale at the Star and around the local Sheffield pubs should you fancy a copy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Xmas Opening Times

To save anyone making fruitless trips to pubs this holiday period I will try and update what I know of the local circuits opening hours:

Xmas Eve:
All pubs opening as usual, except the Star which will be open all day. Some may stay open longer than usual.

Xmas Day:
Grove is closed
Sportsman 11-2pm
Star 12-2
Rat closed

Boxing Day (26th):
Grove is closed
Star is closed
Sportsman open 12-11
Rat 3-12

Monday 28th:
Star is closed

Will attempt to collate rest of times in next few days and update as and when.

Bah Humbug!!

It is one day in the calendar that real beer drinkers dread and licensees must love. Its the Friday before Christmas, 'Mad Friday' is here again. No doubt it will bring its usual collection of groups of lager drinkers, seen in the pub once a year, who think they own the place and the work groups with the once a year drinker who decides the most exciting thing to drink is half of mild.

I am not intentionally critical of these people, they have as much right to be in the pub as anyone else, after all it is a public house, but I just wish that they would be more adventurous and not hunt in packs. The choice of real ale in most of the Town pubs is wide ranging, so why stick to something tried and tested like smoothflow. Branch out, drink something different, like real beer, with real taste, you never know, you may like it. And you may even be converted. The same applies to lager drinkers. Why not try something different to 'Carling'? Even though I don't drink it, surely there are better alternatives. I know the Grove has several to choose from, and the Rat does Becks and Veltins. Why not experiment ?

Anyway, no doubt I will be around in town joining the fight to get served and trying to get into the Xmas spirit. I am glad that it happens only once a year. But I expect the tills in the town centre pubs to be ringing happily to the sound of revellers spending their cash to keep the pubcos happy. Roll on 2010 and sanity.

It's Chocolate Time

Readers know how much I rate light, hoppy beers, but I am also a great lover of the dark, proper stouts, and last night I found one of the best on the bar at the Star. You will not be surprised to hear that it was brewed by Mallinsons.

This time Tara has turned her hand to making a chocolate stout, and has done an excellent job of it as well. It is 4.2%, a sensible drinking strength, and black as a stout should be. It is smooth but has an underlying bitterness that shines through each mouthful. It is hard to say whether this comes from the hops or the bitter dark chocolate in the beer but the combination works to perfection, giving a tasty stout which is very moreish and stands comparison with any other chocolate stout on the market. It may not have the smoothness that her 'Oatmeal Stout' did but that does not detract from it in any way. It is easy to recogonise with the normal Mallinsons clip depicting a bar of chocolate, so there is little chance of confusion.

I also hear that there is a chocolate orange version made in small quanties to sample but that is not available around these parts yet. It is supposedly on the list for the Harlequin's mini festival this weekend, along with another one off, 'Humbug'. I have also noticed some additions to the Mallinsons bottled beer range with 'Nile' and 'Xavier' appearing.

If you want something different, hunt out the 'Chocolate Stout'. It is a great beer from Huddersfield's excellent brewster.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Choice in Sheffield

When beer enthusiasts are asked which is their favourite drinking town, Sheffield is invariably and deservedly high on the list. It boasts many good pubs in a small area which all provide several and varied cask ales. Ranging from the 'Wellington' by the Shalesmoor tram stop, to the 'Harlequin' down off The Wicker; from 'The Hillsborough Hotel' to the 'Fat Cat' and not forgetting CAMRA's pub of the year 'The Kelham Island Tavern'. All are different and all worth a visit, making it a mecca for beer tickers. However, in the last couple of weeks two more pubs have been added to the list to make a visit there even better.

The Gardeners, situated out on Neepsend Lane, has reopened after refurbishment. It closed almost 2 1/2 years ago after being under water in the floods that devastated Sheffield, but has been well worth the wait. The pub has retained its original shape with the central bar serving two rooms but has been redecorated to give it a light and airy feel with its rear conservatory adding even more light. It was serving four beers from the Sheffield Brewery on my visit, with 6 guests, so there is plenty of beer to go at. The bar billiard table has been retained, which is apparently unique in the City. It does not serve food and it only opens at 3pm Monday to Thursday but is open all day Friday and at the weekend. It is well worth a call.

The other pub, is a revelation, and superbly sited for the train traveller from Huddersfield. 'The Sheffield Tap' is situated on Sheffield Midland station with access either from the road outside or from Platform 1, which coincidentally is where most Huddersfield bound trains arrive. It is a large pub that used to be a refreshment room I believe and has been redone with a dark wood bar and plenty of glass. With this, the high ceiling and good choice of seating it can hold plenty of people but still seem comfortable. Its beer range at present is eight from the Thornbridge stable, but rumour has it, they will be introducing guest beers in the near future. There is a massive range of interesting bottled beer as well so it is an ideal place to idle away a few minutes waiting for your train.

Sheffield has always been a good place to visit, and has just got even better, so when you have a bit of free time, take a trip down the Penistone line and seen what it has to offer - I am sure you will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Is Coming

You do not need me to tell you that there are only 16 drinking days until Christmas, or alternatively only 16 days to hunt out those beers that only appear once a year for the festive season. Some are recognisable by their seasonal names, others by their seasonal tastes; some are good, some not so.

In the last few days around town these beers are starting to trickle in (not literally I may add!), and Scrooge's and Christmas lovers alike can take in their share. Thankfully, there are still beers with normal names to choose from as well, but if you are on the Christmas theme, here are a few to get you started.

The Cherry Tree provides Hook Norton '12 Days', a 5.5% dark offering along with Marstons 'Ugly Sisters' a 4.5% that has a little too much sweetness for my taste - Oh no it hasn't I hear you shout! - both typically seasonal. Out of town I have encountered, but not enjoyed, Oldershaw 'Yuletide' which is a dark red 5.2% brew and Phoenix 'Snowbound' a 4.3% beer that I did like. The Rat & Ratchet has had York 'Nippy Nights' on the bar - a bit of a shock when it turned out dark rather than the light beer I associate with the brewery.

The other town centre pubs do not seem to have really entered into the spirit of the season yet, that is until you reach the Star, where in the last week the drinkers have been supping Abbeydale 'Turkey Surprise' and 'White Christmas', both excellent beers from this very good brewery. Coach House 'Xmas Stocking' has made a reappearance for the season, along with Church End ' Reinbeer', and they have been backed up by Derventio 'Winter King', more seasonal than festive, but still very good from a brewery not often seen around these parts.

No doubt there will be plenty more to come, hopefully not many of those that taste like Christmas pudding in a glass or made with all the odd spices and flavours that brewers feel compelled to throw in at this time of year. It is time when the light hoppy beer fan does seem a little left out, but its only once a year so I cannot complain too much. All I hope for is the reappearance of my favourite name for a Christmas beer (cannot recall who brewed it though) 'It Looks Like Rain Dear', and the rebrewing of Pictish's excellent 'Rudolph's Rocket Fuel'. Suppose I will just have to wait and see what Santa brings me, just hope its pale and hoppy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Revisiting Old Favourites

Those of you who read the blog regularly will be aware that I was less than charitable about Thornbridge 'Raven' a couple of entries back, for which I have had plenty of feedback, from brewers and drinkers alike.

As a result, and since I managed to find a spare afternoon, I thought it a good idea to revisit the Thornbridge beers available at the 'Grove', to check on their quality. It is unusual for me to drink a brewery's core range, I generally go for their new beers when they are available but on this occasion all the beers there I had drunk previously, so I knew roughly what to expect.

In case you were not aware, Thornbridge have recently started brewing on a new and larger plant so some - not me I hasten to add - would class these as new beers. First up was the 3.5% 'Wild Swan'. This was excellent and how I remember it, crisp, clean and flavoursome, in fact loads of hop flavour for a beer of its strength and one I could have quite happily drunk all day. But tasting waits for no man, and it was onwards and upwards, strengthwise anyway, to 'Jaipur'.

This is a 5.9% IPA, again packed with flavour, and even better than I remembered it. The slight haze may have been explained by the heating at the 'Grove' being broken - where else do you get served by glove-wearing bar staff?!! The beer tasted superb, allowing all the hop character to come out as the beer warmed up. I think a revisit may be in order when the heating is back on.

The last of the trio, was even stronger at 7.7%, and a stout. 'St Petersburg' is again a great example of its type, and dangerously does not drink its strength. A beer to be treated with respect but certainly none the worse for this. In retrospect, I may have been harsh on the 'Raven', I would certainly try it again now but after my experiment I can report that all is well with Thornbridge, and their brewing goes from strength to strength.